The cars we loved.
The early Seventies had been hard on the Camaro. The Z28 option disappeared in 1975 and new tougher smog, safety and unleaded fuel mandates dictated the trim levels of future Camaro offered by Chevrolet. All had not been lost as the 1977 model year marked the return of the Z28. No longer just an engine option, the Z28 had become its own model with a choice of two V8 engines. The once proud V8 now running on unleaded gasoline were good for only 145 or 170 hp in the optional 350 cubic inch engine. Not a lot of power by modern Camaro standards, but these were lean years for the few muscle cars still around. It’s also important to note that these were the heaviest Camaros ever.
It’s not surprising, during this era Chevrolet focused on handling and graphics. The coil spring front and leaf spring rear setup was first-rate for the time, even if it was old tech by European standards. The motoring press was delighted with the return of the Z28 as much of Detroit was shunning performance in the struggle to meet the new federal regulations. The enthusiasm spread to the showroom, where for the first time ever, the Camaro outsold the Mustang. The the 77 model was seven inches longer than earlier second generation cars due to federally mandated bumpers. Eventually the Camaro would recover aesthetically in 1978 with a enduro plastic bumper cover, otherwise there were few noticable changes.
The Z28 was recognizable by its blackout grill, headlight bezels and body colored 15 inch wheels. A rear spoiler, stripes and the Z28 decal completed the look. There were 14 exterior and 11 interior color options with cloth or vinyl seats. The hidden windshield wipers now had an intermittent option available for the first time. Transmissions were unchanged with a choice of the standard 4 speed manual or 3 speed Turbo Hydra-Matic. There was even a stereo cassette option (CB radios would not be an option until the 1979 model year).
The 1977 Z28 is not expected to be much of a collectors car, due to the poor straight line performance relative to older and newer cars. Generally the second generation is not as well regarded as the first or third (save for the 70 -74 models). That never stopped countless high school home coming parades from featuring this era camaro as part of a parade. Often standard camaros were tarted up to resemble Z-28s, especially since visually only spoilers and wheels marked the main differences to the untrained eye or ear.
The 1977 Z28 is noted as marking Chevrolet’s commitment to affordable performance, even if it was compromised. Chevy was not able to come to grips with the tough federal regulations until well into the third generation. For a brief moment, modern audiences were made aware of the 77 Camaro via the first Transformers film. Ironically, the under achieving Transformer called ‘Bumblebee” later adopted the persona of the current Camaro, thus marking a symbolic connection as the 1977 Z28 could be seen as the start of modern Camaro performance.